Secondary school exchanges

Learn about the 2 types of secondary school exchange programmes and the criteria that both must meet in order to operate.

Level of compliance Main audience Other


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  • Principals and tumuaki
  • Administrators
  • Parents, caregivers and whānau

About school exchanges

School exchanges are reciprocal programmes providing an opportunity for students to live and study in another country.

Students experience a different school and education system with a different curriculum, a different culture, and possibly a new language. Most exchange students live with host families.

Types of exchange programmes and requirements

Schools can organise secondary school exchanges themselves, or a student could choose to take part in a programme run by an Exchange Programme Organisation (EPO). School-to-school exchanges and EPOs must meet specific requirements in order to be approved by the Ministry.

Both school-to-school and exchange programme organisations must meet the following exchange requirements.

Education focused

Students must be enrolled full time at school and follow a standard educational programme, similar to a domestic student. They may have more intensive language tuition where required, but the programme should not be exclusively language. Programmes where travel is primarily for sporting, cultural or tourism activities should be considered as study trips, not exchanges.

Pastoral care

Exchange students are away from home and familiar environments. Schools and organisations are required to provide pastoral care for both inbound and outbound students in line with the Education (Pastoral Care of Tertiary and International Learners) Code of Practice 2021 (the Code).

Aotearoa New Zealand schools participating in an exchange are required to be signatories to the Code.

Tertiary and International Learners Code of Practice(external link)


Programmes should have equivalent numbers of inbound and outbound students, studying in the overseas school/country under equivalent conditions. As inbound students are considered to be domestic students, no tuition fees should be charged on either side (except for EPO students in private or state-integrated schools).


Programmes of 2 weeks or less aren't considered to be exchanges. Inbound students may be either international students or international student visitors. The maximum length of an exchange is 12 months.

Age range

Exchange students must be aged 14 to 18 years, and enrolled in Year 9-13, or the overseas equivalent.

Inbound students on exchange 

Inbound exchange students are considered domestic students and are eligible for the same funding and support as a domestic student, including ESOL support where necessary.

Circular 2020/08 – Eligibility to enrol in New Zealand schools

ESOL funding

Although inbound exchange students aren't included in the Code, exchange providers still need to provide equivalent pastoral care to their inbound students. Inbound exchange students may study for up to 3 months on a visitor visa, but longer exchanges require a student visa.

Assist students – Immigration website(external link)

New Zealand students on exchange

Outbound exchange students are not considered as enrolled in their New Zealand school for funding purposes while they're on exchange. This is because they are receiving education from the overseas school/organisation. Pastoral care and support is provided by the host school/organisation, often in conjunction with the New Zealand school/organisation. The overseas country determines any visa or permit requirements.

Enrolling inbound and outbound students

Guidance for schools on managing the enrolment of both inbound and outbound students is available from our ENROL team. Inbound students will need to be included in ENROL and their details will need to be updated in ENROL in a timely manner.

Guide to using ENROL

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